It takes three large exhibit hangars and an open-air tarmac to hold New England Air Museum’s large collection of more than 80 civilian and military aircraft. Here you can see one of the remaining Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, one of the most advanced bombers during World War II. The museum also contains the Republic RC-3 Seabee, a single-engine amphibian aircraft. The collection encompasses helicopters, gyrocopters, and gliders. There’s even the Silas Brooks Balloon Basket, a basket circa-1870 that’s thought to be the oldest surviving aircraft in the United States.
A variety of special events run periodically, such as kid-friendly demonstrations that explain of the scientific principles that make flight possible, and the Build and Fly Station, where visitors are encouraged construct and keep their own aircraft.
Many a 19th-century summer day, William Skinner would wipe his brow with a silk handkerchief and breathe in the sweet scent of wisteria vines. His wife, Sarah, had trained the vines to grow alongside their sprawling home, which he had built in 1874 with the profits from his silk-manufacturing business. He named it Wistariahurst in honor of his wife’s prized vines, which continued to grow even after the stately home passed down to the next generation of the Skinner family and, in 1959, to the city of Holyoke.
The wisteria vines have not stood the test of time alone. The home's elaborate woodwork, original leather wall coverings, and elegant columns have also remained intact. Every week, the docents at Wistariahurst Museum lead tours across the historical estate, elaborating on the Skinner family's history and showcasing collections of architectural prints and silk textiles from the family's manufacturing business. In addition to tours, staff members regularly offer workshops that teach Girl Scouts about such Victorian-era pastimes as knitting and playing parlor games with the ghosts in the attic.
In the warmer months, Wistariahurst’s immaculately manicured gardens play host to a wide variety of events. Concerts and lectures remain open to the public, and private rentals allow guests to hold weddings or play ill-advised games of hide-and-seek in the minotaur labyrinth.
At Lutz Children's Museum, curious young ones aged 2 to 10 explore rotating hands-on exhibits to soak up knowledge and stoke imagination flames. Dismount aluminum covered wagons and kick off a terra firma cultural journey at the main street exhibit, which depicts a World War II-era American village, including a detailed shop and school. Meanwhile, the farm exhibit vividly displays 19th-century Connecticut farm life, where kids can collect eggs from hens, climb in a hayloft, milk the resident cow, or psychoanalyze their moos. Colorful works decorate the halls of the children's art gallery, which occasionally features the creative work of professional artists, while cuddleful perks await visitors of the rescued live animals, where a chinchilla named Bounce currently prowls the grounds alongside about 50 other cute creatures.
Samuel Clemens lived a life so full that it encompassed two names. He was a riverboat pilot, a silver prospector, and a newspaperman?and it was in this last trade that he first used the name under which he would author some of America's greatest fiction: Mark Twain. In works such as Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court? Twain cast a wry spotlight on the political and industrial changes of the 19th century, from westward expansion to the end of slavery to the birth of ground-breaking technology such as the mustache comb. In much the same way, the very space where Twain wrote?the Hartford home where his family lived from 1874 to 1891?illuminates the times as well as the personal life of the man behind the letters.
These days, that home is a National Historic Landmark that serves as half of The Mark Twain House and Museum. Comprised of 25 rooms, including a glass conservatory and grand library, it has been open to the public since its 100th anniversary in 1974. Inside, visitors explore not only the billiard room where Twain penned novels such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but also nearly 16,000 Twain-related artifacts, such as his last pair of spectacles and photos of his daughters putting on plays. Even more objects and information fill the nearby LEED-certified museum, where rotating exhibits focus on subjects such as the Twain family's servants.
"Her words changed the world," reads the website for the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. "What will you do?" As the author of the 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe's moving prose helped expose the brutal reality of slavery in the United States. Today, her family home still stands in honor of her memory, welcoming guests as a museum and historic site.
Visitors step into the past via the front door, stopping by the front parlor to see where the Stowes gathered to take tea, play games, and debate the pressing issues of the day. The ground floor also houses some of the Stowes' original furnishings, including a dining room table and Harriet's own oil and watercolor paintings. The second floor offers a more personal look at the author's day-to-day life through touches such as her hand-painted furniture, as well as a terrarium that reflected her love of nature. Guided tours can provide further insight into the life of a woman who, in a time period marked by prejudice and turmoil, nevertheless spoke in favor of equality and change.
The New Children?s Museum's hands-on exhibits challenge kids to think creatively and solve problems. They can observe lizards in mock habitats, build Lego towers and put them to the test against simulated earthquakes, follow a timeline of Mars' history, and learn about the Earth's rotation under a Foucault pendulum. The museum also hosts camps and birthday parties, helping to make learning become a celebrated part of life.